The Los Angeles Angels acquired the services of Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night. The Braves dealt Teixeira, a free agent following the season, in exchange for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek.
Although the Angels will only get two months of the switch-hitting slugger, they were in desperate need of adding another bat to protect Vladimir Guerrero in a lineup that has struggled to score runs. In fact, despite being 11.5 games up over the Texas Rangers in the American League West, the club has a lower run differential than the third-place Oakland Athletics.
The first team to win 65 games, Los Angeles has relied on its excellent starting rotation, a solid bullpen led by closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is threatening to break the single-season saves record, and an above-average team defense.
The Angels’ offensive attack, on the other hand, has been a major weakness, as the club ranks in the back of the pack in nearly every statistical category, including runs scored (474), on-base percentage (.322) and OPS (.721).
Howie Kendrick, Guerrero and Torii Hunter have made an impact, but are currently the only regulars on the 25-man roster who have posted an OPS above .800.
Guerrerro, who has rebounded from a poor start, is leading the team with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs. Still, he is not 100 percent healthy, which remains a cause for concern.
Several other starters have struggled mightily, though. The group of disappointments is highlighted by free agent bust Gary Matthews Jr., who has posted the lowest OPS total among all qualifying left fielders in the majors and is batting only .234/.313/.346 with seven homers. Veteran Garret Anderson, who has posted a .309 on-base percentage and has seen his bat speed drop off dramatically, has also struggled.
Teixeira, who is batting .283/.390/.512 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs, will undoubtedly provide a major boost to the L.A. lineup. One of the most productive hitters in the majors, he will also help provide protection for the aforementioned core. Also a solid defensive first baseman, he has a career .909 OPS and will be the premier free agent available this offseason.
Teixeira was a monster for Atlanta after being acquired from the Rangers for four minor league prospects in the blockbuster deal of ’07 deadline season, hitting 17 home runs and posting a 1.019 OPS in 54 games. The Braves, however, were 2.5 games out in the National League East when they acquired the switch-hitting slugger. They then finished six games back, despite a monster performance from their new acquisition. This is a different situation right now, however, as the Angels are already a lock for the postseason, sitting as the runaway favorites in the AL West.
Therefore, Teixeira has a realistic chance to make a huge difference, adding the bat that has been missing for Los Angeles, which even considered signing Alex Rodriguez to fill the void this offseason, over the past two years.
In return, Atlanta is getting a nice player in Kotchman, who has above average contact and defensive skills. His offensive output, however, leaves a bit to be desired. He does not hit for the power normally associated with a corner infielder and has shown decreasing on-base skills in 2008. More of a contact hitter, he has posted a line of .287/.327/.448, for a low .774 OPS for a first baseman, with 12 homers and 54 RBIs. To his credit, the former first-round pick out of Seminole High School in Florida—which had a record amount of players drafted during his senior year back in 2001—has been great with runners in scoring position and two outs, posting a line of .357/.426/.429 in a small sample size of 42 at-bats.
Marek has come out of nowhere to emerge as one of the premier relief pitching prospects in the minors. A 40th-round pick back in 2004, he went to San Jacinto Junior College and then signed as a draft and follow. He is 2-6 with a 3.66 ERA, .223 opponents’ batting average and 57-to-21 K/W ratio in 34 appearances at Double-A Arkansas. Look for him to make an impact out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2009.
Considering that Teixeira is a brief rental who will play in only around 50 more games, is a Scott Boras client and is expected to fetch around $20 million, Frank Wren deserves credit for pulling the trigger. Wren, the longtime right-hand man under John Schuerholz, received more value—in the short- and long-term—by dealing the soon-to-be free agent than the organization would have would have gotten had it waited to receive a pair of compensation picks when he bolted for free agency.
Still, the Angels are to be applauded as well, because Teixeira is perhaps the missing link in their quest to win a title.
To contact Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.